NBC has put the pilot episode of its new serialized mystery adventure show Revolution on Hulu and, curious to answer a burning question, we gave it a watch. Our question was this: Why is everyone fighting with swords? Yeah electricity has stopped working, that's the premise of the show, but, um, guns aren't electric. So why, in the promos and everything, did we see all these swords and crossbows and everything? Now we have our answer. Sort of?
So there are, in fact, guns in the world of Revolution, they just aren't that common. Because some sort of militia run by a warlord or something has made them illegal. There's a line about owning a gun being a hanging offense, so it seems like gun control is pretty strict in this dystopian future. Of course, this being a show set in America, some folks have kept their guns anyway and aren't afraid to use them, but mostly, yeah, mostly this vague gun ban has caused people to resort to the use of thin, machete-like swords and that trusty weapon of many a TV show, the crossbow. So, OK. At least they made some effort to explain why, if the lights went out in one of the most gun-crazy nations on earth, everyone wouldn't be strapped to the teeth, Mad Max-style.
Other than that deeply important matter, the rest of the show didn't even satisfy in the dissatisfaction department. Meaning the mystery really isn't all that tantalizing, even though the show goes to great lengths to try and make it so. Maybe it's because the premise makes no sense. How does a naturally existing scientific phenomenon, which the world, not just people, depends on to exist, cease to function? Well, SPOILER ALERT, we do see at the end of the episode that some mysterious woman has a working light bulb and a DOS-era computer that she uses to IM with... someone, but mostly, yeah, things stopped working and no one can build anything new that works either. How is this possible? Electricity is everywhere. Can't people just, like, start using it again? Our brains use electricity! So do eels and, y'know, the magnetic field that protects us from solar wind! So, can't humans... use it too? Sure an EMP or something could wipe out existing electronics, but we've seen that electricity does in fact still work, at least on that one woman's old IBM or whatever, so it's not like electricity as a concept has ceased to exist. (Everyone would be dead then.) It just doesn't make any damn sense, and no matter how they try to explain it, it never will.
Beyond that major conceptual flaw, Revolution suffers also from a general overabundance of cheesy TV convention. Character-wise, there's the headstrong daughter, the fat punchline who's also the informative nerd, the sweet-faced teenage boy who brashly does anything to protect his family, the gruff loner hero, etc. etc. It's all Terra Nova/FlashForward/The Event/whatever else dressed up in a pretty dumb new gimmick. That Lost has been the inspiration for so many low-rent imitators like Revolution over the years may be its darkest legacy, perhaps even more of a stain on its reputation than the fact that it ended so poorly. For all of Revolution's efforts at world-making — there are militias with tattoos, the aforementioned mysterious warlord, sword fighting, highway bandits, the rotting remains of technological civilization dotting the landscape — there's really very little creativity here. It's basically Waterworld on land, minus (so far) any pee drinking or (hopefully, for her sake) Jeanne Tripplehorn. Poor Billy Burke (mostly known for the Twilight movies, sadly) plays the Kevin Costner role of the stoic, tough hero. Two non-entities play his teenage niece and nephew. They're both pretty little things, but that's about it. The unfortunate Zak Orth, who once showed such promise in things like Wet Hot American Summer and has been in two Woody Allen films, plays the dumpy dork with piteous results. And Elizabeth Mitchell, dear departed Juliet from Lost, plays the Mom in some flashbacks, though it's unclear if she'll pop up again. (Supposedly she died after the lights went out, but maybe she's not really dead?)
Anyway, the point is that we now know why (sort of) there are sword fights in the electricity-free world and we suspect that's all we need to know about this show. In our house at least, we suspect the Revolution will not be televised.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.